The PhD thesis was supervised by Josep Fontcuberta Griñó, ICMAB-CSIC. The PhD Committee that evaluated the Thesis was formed by Dr. Prof. Jacobo Santamaría Sánchez-Barriga, from Universidad Complutense de Madrid (President), Dr. Roman Engel-Herbert, from The Pennsylvania State University (Secretary), and Dr. Prof. Lesley Cohen, from Imperial College London (Vocal).
Mathieu Mirjolet's PhD thesis was part of the PhD Programme in Physics from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).
On screen: Roman Engel-Herbert, Jacobo Santamaría Sánchez-Barriga and Lesley Cohen. In front: Mathieu Mirjolet and Josep Fontcuberta.
Why did you choose the ICMAB for your PhD?
During my master’s thesis, some friends drove my attention to some PhD grants in Spain, one was dedicated to a research project conducted at the ICMAB. After some small investigation, I quickly realized that it is an excellent research center. After talking with the researchers of what was about to become my research group, my suspicions were confirmed and I knew that I wanted to pursue my PhD at the ICMAB.
How would you explain your research to a non-scientific audience?
My research is focused on transparent conducting oxides (TCOs), a category of materials that are at the same time metallic (as any conventional metal such as gold, aluminum, copper…) but with the extra-advantage of being highly transparent to visible light. These materials are extremely useful for nowadays’ technologies. Indeed, most of displays, solar cells, smart windows need some TCO layer to operate.
What are the main applications of your research? Could you give us an example?
As mentioned above, displays need a transparent conducting coating to operate properly. Nowadays, nearly anyone has a smartphone in their pocket or a TV in their living-room. Therefore, the main application is definitely displays. However, in my thesis research, we rather focused on the application in photovoltaics, which I personally found more motivating in times when the world needs to invest in renewable energies.
From the lessons learnt here, which one do you value the most?
I have learnt many lessons during this PhD. I believe that the one I value the most is that: you have to be organized, keep a steady workflow, and take rapid decisions, as time flies.
What will you miss the most from ICMAB?
Without a doubt: my colleagues and friends. At the ICMAB, I found a real balance between work and social interactions. ICMAB is simply a place where one is happy to go to work. In fact, I want to take advantage of this question to acknowledge the administrative and technical staff for their kindness.
How do you think this experience will contribute to your training and to your future?
During the PhD, I have learnt so much about materials science, organization, or even about communication. I am sure that all these skills will serve me in any future enterprise.
What are your plans once you finish your PhD?
With the context of COVID and the frustration due to lockdowns and restrictions, I would really enjoy travelling a bit after the defense. Afterwards, I will be focused on finding a job or a postdoc.
What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your PhD, that now you can recommend to the ones who are starting?
I believe that communication is one of the basic skills a scientist must acquire, and giving talks in conferences is very important! In addition, each one of us should be able to explain their own research to a lay public, which might even be a tougher exercise! I recommend to those who are starting to try to participate in as many events as possible.
Why did you become a scientist? Which have been your role models?
From a young age I was really interested in numbers and science. At school I always fancied mathematics, physics, biology and so on. In what we call collège in France (between 11 and 15 y.o.), I had very smart and funny teachers of physics/chemistry. The choice to become a scientist was quite obvious to me.
Which is your favourite female scientist? And why?
To be honest, I don’t idolize any scientist in particular. I recognize and admire the work of all scientists, women and men, but it is hard for me to pinpoint one in particular.
Describe in 3 keywords…
- Your research: exciting, intense, fascinating
- Barcelona: beautiful, warm, diverse
- Your experience at ICMAB: fulfilling, friendly, unique
Any other comments you would like to say:
I would like to thank my colleagues and friends from the institute for making this experience so special. I wish everyone lots of success and happiness in their life.